B.C. Re/Max Performance Realtor Leah Bach grew up around the water, lived in a floating home, met her husband in a floating home community and today sells units in her father John deWaal’s “bare land” strata development Queensgate Marina, at the junction of the north and south arms of the Fraser River.
Float homes have grown in popularity throughout B.C. and now regularly appear in marinas as tenants. Some are converted boathouses (with living quarters on top), while others are self-propelled houseboats. The floating homes usually pay a monthly moorage fee in a marina and their tenancy is akin to a trailer park arrangement. (See www.floatinghomes.com for listings of B.C. floating homes for sale). However, strata developments take floating home ownership to a new level, giving the homeowner greater security. DeWaal said his development is the third such marina strata project in B.C., with the other two located in Ladner and Richmond.
Realtor Bach says that for $600,000 to $700,000, buyers can obtain a floating home measuring between 1,600 and 1,800 square feet, ownership of a foreshore lot, and a waterscape view onto the Fraser River. The Queensgate project in Queensborough is being constructed in three phases. Phase I has been sold (four floating homes on site and one currently being constructed) and Phase II, with five lots, is now being offered. The final phase is under development and features another five lots.
The strata lots are being sold at $300,000 each by the developer. The homes (which must be approved by developer deWaal) are estimated to cost $300,000 to $400,000. The purchaser provides the floating home either through a company such as Linwood Homes, which is known to build quality floating homes, by hiring an architect or by purchasing plans and doing an independent build on site. “Essentially, for $600,000 you can have the whole floating house,” says Bach.
The strata buyer is purchasing the “upland” from where the floating house sits. The upland is that area of shore land down to the high water mark. The lots are 50 by 50 feet. “You can’t build on it,” deWaal says, because the land is in a “red zone” that protects fish habitat. However, by purchasing the land, the buyer gets the old common law riparian rights or “the legal rights to use the water,” he says. Those rights are set out with Ports Canada on a 40-year lease.
The bare land strata differs from a conventional strata in that while the units share strata arrangements, each unit is an entity and there are no shared walls. The individuals in the bare land strata share the amenities and infrastructure. The maintenance fees are often lower in bare land strata developments because the individual homeowners assume responsibility for maintaining their own home, unlike a shared strata building.
“All the infrastructure is accorded to the strata and is located inside the floating dock,” says Bach. The City of New Westminster supplies dockside sewer and water. Other amenities include electricity, cable and communications. Natural gas is available for cooking, fireplaces and barbecuing.
The 40-year foreshore lease with Ports Canada has 30 years remaining. At that time, the strata development will receive first right of refusal to renew the lease with the fee for that renewal coming from the strata funds. Currently, maintenance fees are $160 a month, says Bach.
DeWaal, as the developer, is managing the strata development but once 51 per cent of the lots are sold, it will convert to a strata council to manage. DeWaal is living nearby in a unique home that is built partially on shore and over the Fraser River. However he has the property for sale and wants to build a double-wide floating home within Queensgate.
Buyers who purchase a floating home come from all walks of life, says Bach, who has lived in a floating home community. They range from professionals to homemakers, and are of all ages. “But, there are not a lot of families with children because there is a limited footprint and you can’t send the kids outside to play,” she says. She does know of one family with seven children who were raised in a floating house.
The ideal buyer is one that enjoys the out-of-doors lifestyle. It includes the marina atmosphere, the river life and views, and the thought of fishing off a dock only a few steps away or climbing into your boat moored at the doorstep for some early-morning catches. Jim and Kathy Dorval is such a couple. The Dorvals were living in Prince George and moving towards retirement in spring 2011. Their dream was an ocean waterfront home where they could moor their 26-foot boat nearby and go fishing. However, the price of that dream and waterfront lots seemed out of their financial grasp. They were looking at northern Vancouver Island when they found Queensgate Marina online. They are now having a floating home built.
Bach says one of the advantages of this marina development is that the homes are all sited in a straight line, providing everyone with a view. In some marinas, she says, homes are sited in a “Christmas tree” formation with branches, and views are compromised. With concrete patios and outdoor areas (which don’t count as living space and impact the size of a home), Bach says homeowners could enjoy an affordable waterfront lifestyle at a modest price. “The world is pretty well your oyster,” she says.